Entries in Sherry Printz (4)


We Are Not Special | by Sherry Gilpin Printz

To be respected as an educator and to get along with the faculty and staff of your school, please realize that as a choir director you are no more or less special than any other person in your district.  Set an example for your students.  How many of us really like being around those students who are so “special” (in their opinion) that the rules and expectations don’t apply to them?  The same thing applies to the choir director.


The following are statements that I feel are important to our success as an educator:

  • I am an educator first.
  • I am a music educator second.
  • I am a choral educator third.
  • My program is no more important or less important than football, winter guard, band, math, English, etc., etc.
  • Yes, I have to write lesson plans (and hand them in if the principal asks).
  • Yes, I have to attend faculty meetings and be on time (show choir rehearsal is not an excused absence – just as basketball practice shouldn’t be either).
  • Yes, I have to write curriculum.
  • Yes, I have to serve on M-SIP and other committees.
  • Yes, I have to work the concession stand, sponsor the prom, and help build a float for homecoming. (I don’t have to like it, but I do have to do it)!
  • Yes, I need to belong to NEA or MSTA and the local teacher’s organization.
  • Yes, I need to belong to MENC/MMEA and attend the convention.
  • Yes, I need to belong to ACDA/MCDA and attend the summer convention.
  • Yes, I need to go to the Friday TGIF’s and associate with other teachers in a social situation.  (If you don’t go, don’t complain that you have no teacher friends).
  • Yes, I need to learn about the people with whom I work, so I’ll ask them about their interests/family/pets/grandchildren, etc.
  • Speak to and even smile at every teacher you meet in the hall.
  • Yes, I have to share my students with sports, band, field trips, etc.
  • Yes, I have to do mid-term reports, grade cards, write requisitions, do budgets, etc.  These things need to be done legibly and in a timely manner.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to call your music dealer to order music unless your mother works there.  Sometimes they don’t have it in stock, and it has to be ordered.  If you want it immediately, go to the store to pick it up, or be prepared to pay $$$ for overnight delivery.


It took me 31 years to learn some of these things.  I hope my thoughts will be helpful to you and make your career easier.  Also, please remember to ask for help when you feel over-whelmed, frustrated, and don’t know what to do.  There is an incredible amount of knowledge and experience in our state.  Call on choir directors or other teachers in your district for help.  All of us are more than willing to share what we have learned.


Preparing for District/All-State Choir Auditions | by Brian Reeves, Sherry Printz, & Kathy Bhat

Brian Reeves:  Be careful in how you choose music.  The piece you choose will help or hurt the student.  Choose a piece that shows off their strength, not one that highlights a weakness.  In most cases the level of difficulty doesn’t matter.  It is how they sing it.


Sherry Printz:  Students who were auditioning for all-district/all-state choir usually used a solo that they had prepared for district contest the year before.  Auditions occur so early in the fall that it was very helpful for them to already have something learned.  All they had to do was review and put on the polish.  This gave them more time to focus on the other elements of the audition process.  I would find an appropriate solo for those students who had not taken a solo to contest before school was out in the spring.  They had the summer to become familiar with the solo. 


A bit of advice from one who judges several all-district auditions:  I know it’s easy to assign all of your altos the same solo, etc.  HOWEVER, the judges get really tired of hearing the same song over and over and over.  Also, I have found that frequently the students all sound the same.  This is great if they are well prepared.  However, the ones who are not as prepared are really at a disadvantage.  Would you want to sit and listen to 6 students in a row sing “Caro Mio Ben”  - making the same mistakes?  They all breathe in exactly the same spot (right or wrong), same rhythms (right or wrong), etc.   This frequently happens in smaller schools where students do not have the opportunity to study privately.  (DON’T BE OFFENDED BY THIS STATEMENT – I TAUGHT IN SMALL SCHOOLS FOR 29 YEARS – I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND – I’VE BEEN THERE). 


Explain the audition process to the students.  Do mock auditions.  Practice key signatures.  Practice the sight reading examples.  BUY THE CD AND REHEARSE THEM WITH IT.  That’s what they are going to be using during the real thing.


Make sure you arrive at auditions early enough so that everyone has a chance to warm up, settle down, etc.


If a student is sick and has no voice, don’t let them audition.  It is not a learning experience – but rather a humiliating experience.


BE SURE YOU GET YOUR ENTRIES AND FEES IN ON TIME.  Don’t whine and complain and threaten legal actions if YOU screwed up and didn’t do the paper work.  Don’t try to blame it on anyone else.  Don’t allow your parents to verbally abuse the people in charge because you don’t take responsibility for not getting the paper work done.   The district directors have so much to organize.  They can’t wait on you.  Remember:  YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL (see chapter 2).


Kathy Bhat:  DO NOT choose the songs that you just sang in college.  Yes, you know them – but unless you have some amazing voices, those songs will be too advanced and not allow your students the success they could have.  Seek the advise of your music mentor in selecting some solo/small ensemble music.


START EARLY!   If you are planning on taking students to contest in March/April, then start before Christmas helping the students select and learn notes.  It doesn’t have to be intense – just let them get the notes together.  Set a goal for everything memorized a month prior to contest.


FIND AN ACCOMPANIST!  It might seem easier to accompany your own students, but your day will be much more relaxed if you can just be the DIRECTOR and not the director/accompanist.


Small Ensembles/Solos for District and Coordinating Private Studio with Public School Teachers | by Brian Reeves & Sherry Printz


Brian Reeves:  Some years I have students pick their ensembles and some years I do it.  I’ve had more success in terms of a group following through when I have chosen the groups.


Sherry Printz:  I’ve had more luck picking the membership and the literature for small ensembles.   Younger students often times choose their friends – not necessarily a good idea.  I always let them have input into the membership of their group, i.e. personality conflicts, etc.  Many times students requested a particular student not be put in their group because they were not dependable. 



Brian Reeves:  The private voice teachers will help you tremendously.  Show your respect to them by printing their names in your concert programs and acknowledging them.






Thoughts on Contest From Behind the Desk | by Sherry Printz & Sandy Cordes

After having judged multiple contests this year, we are reminded of some of the things that you SHOULD/SHOULDN’T do as a director.  Each of the examples really happened – we didn’t exaggerate anything.

  2. Do not pick double choir music for a small choir or for a chamber choir.  Double choir music is intended to have a big sound.  Oftentimes, the singers seem very insecure when there are only one or two people per part.
  3. OBSERVE ALL DYNAMIC AND TEMPO MARKINGS ON THE PAGE.  They are there for a reason and judges expect for them to be observed.  Ritards, etc. are just like stop signs.  Ignored, they are equally deadly.
  4. Lady conductors (particularly) check your stance.  Planting your feet three feet apart looks a bit odd from where we sit.
  5. Lady conductors – check your skirt before conducting.  Be sure it isn’t tucked somewhere it shouldn’t be tucked.  Also, it’s probably a good idea to practice -conduct in the dressing room when you are considering the purchase of a contest dress.  Check out the outfit from the back with all the mirrors.  (That’s what your audience sees).


  1.  Don’t let multiple soloists and small ensembles sing the same selections.   They all sound alike – same mistakes, same tone, same everything.  It is obvious that they have been rehearsed together.  It is not impressive to the judges.  Also, according to the MSHSAA Music Handbook, it is “recommended that classes 1 & 2 not allow more than two entries to perform the same solo; classes 3 & 4 no more than three entries perform the same solo.”    Also, “multiple small ensembles of the same instrumentation/voicing shall not perform the same selection in the same year.”  p. 38 - MSHSAA Music Manual.  Obviously, this isn’t just our personal feeling.
  2. BE RESPECTFUL OF OTHER CHOIRSNEVER, we repeat, NEVER for any reason short of imminent death (preferably your own), interrupt the performance of another choir.  Plan ahead.  (Remember the saying:  “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency for the rest of us.”  If your choirs need to warm up, make sure they know when and where.  It’s wonderful to have your students listen to other choirs; however, they must not leave en-masse between numbers so that they can warm up. 
  3. When there are only 3-5 boys in a mixed choir, center them together rather than spread them out.  This will solidify their sound and bring tonal stability to the women’s parts.
  4. When sight reading, dynamics are secondary.  If you have a choir that is a whiz-bang at sight-reading, great – emphasize dynamics, tempo, etc.  If, on the other hand, your kids have a hard time finding “do,” spend more of your 4 minutes talking about intervals (remind them a P4 sounds like Here Comes the Bride, etc.), repeated notes, repeated patterns of notes, etc. Talk them through the entire piece if you don’t have experienced and capable sight-readers.  Having your students talk about the music among themselves is wonderful IF they know what they are doing.  If they are not proficient in doing it themselves, it is a waste of time.  It makes the director look as if he/she doesn’t know what to say; so let the kids figure it out.  Again, if your kids are capable of leading their section through the preparatory period, by all means, let them do it.  If not, you need to be the leader.
  5. While on the subject of sight-reading:  BE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT DO.  READ THAT MANUAL.  TALK TO DIRECTORS WHO HAVE DONE IT.  Practice the 4-minutes preparation time in class.  Actually have someone time you.  Not only is that beneficial to your singers, but it is very beneficial to the director.
  6. Don’t use photocopied music.  Be organized and order your copies early!!!!!!  If you only have 1 copy of an SSA piece for a girl’s sextet, order it so they can learn it from the REAL music – not a photocopy.  You are sending the wrong message when you allow your students to use photocopied music.  It’s stealing.  JUST DON’T DO IT!  Refer to the article written by Jay Althouse and so graciously donated by Alfred Music on “Copyright.”
  7. WE’RE NOT KIDDING – READ THE MSHSAA MUSIC MANUAL FROM COVER TO COVER – ASK QUESTIONS IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.  THE RULES ARE THERE FOR A REASON.  It’s really embarrassing to have your group disqualified because you didn’t read the rules.  Also, you make the judges and the festival manager feel bad – we do not want to see anyone disqualified.